Steve Reeves has never accepted sponsorship by any persons or organizations such as Joe Weider or the York Barbell Company. It would have helped him defray some of his expenses for travel, hotels and food while training.
Instead, he footed all of his training bills himself, because he truly believed that he could win all of the bodybuilding contests he entered, including the 1950 Mr. Universe contest.
Steve and George Eiferman arrived in York, Pennsylvania (Muscle Town USA) on Memorial Day,1950. To help reduce some of the training expenses, Steve and George traveled together, splitting their costs.
In York they were able to rent rooms in a large private home, It gave them a place to live and cooking privileges, which also helped them conserve their limited financial resources.
George was in York working for the National School Assemblies, making appearances at high school assemblies. Steve came with him to York in order to train for the 1950 Mr. Universe contest, set for June 24 at the Scala Theater in London. Eiferman was Steve's workout partner, and they did their workouts after George completed his daily duties at the schools. Their workouts would start about 4 PM and would last until 6 or 7 PM.
There was only five weeks for training before the contest. On the first day, Steve walked into the gym in great shape, but not quite contest shape. Working those many months in show business had left Steve a much trimmer 200 lbs. That was below his champion ship weight of 215 lbs., his weight at the time of winning the Mr. America title three years earlier.
When John Grimek saw Steve at the gym that day, he didn't believe Steve had a chance of winning, or even placing at the contest. A few times during his stay in York, John Grimek and his wife invited Steve and George to their home for dinner.
Week One began Steve and George's training foundation that set the pace for the next several weeks. They hit it hard, really hard. From the first moment in the gym, Steve's only thought was to train to the maximum, eat plenty of the right foods and get the rest required to rejuvenate his body.
Steve knew the person he had to beat for the Mr. Universe title was Reg Park of Great Britain. So Steve focused on beating Park during his training. Every time he got to his tenth repetition in a set he would count out Park's name instead of the number ten. This gave him motivation and the extra willpower to complete the full ten reps every time.
At the end of the first week, he had already begun getting that great Reeves look back again. Week Two brought more improvement, but Steve felt he needed better equipment to bring his legs back to their former greatness.
He asked Jules Bacon, manager of a local machine shop, to fabricate a special hack machine for him. What Bacon made was a platform about three feet above the ground. A rod extended through a hole in the center of the platform so you could add weights below and had a tee handle at the top. Steve would place the handle behind him and lower himself into a squat position then grab the tee handle. He would then perform squat exercises. That was how he brought his legs back to their former greatness. He also had Bacon make him a low row handle, which is still used today. Steve was always innovating his workouts with new ideas and equipment, much like he still does.
Week Three became a real challenge for Steve as he came down with a severe case of the flu. He could barely make it through his daily workouts, but he persevered. Working out just as hard as he could the entire time, coughing, fighting a fever and hanging onto any thing that was handy after a set. He was constantly on the verge of passing out, but kept working out with more and more intensity all the time. Beat Park. Beat Park. His life consisted of eating and sleeping, working out and napping.
The only thing he changed during his illness was the amount of weight he used. He would lighten the weights a little so he could get through that time of reduced strength. That untimely illness, though, seem to provide some unexpected results. He noticed that the illness seem to have made his muscles more defined.
Week four he was still recovering from the flu. He was feeling much better and his workouts were improving along with his overall appearance. By then everyone in the gym could not believe what they were seeing. More muscle and definition, he had packed on a good solid fifteen pounds of muscle. Not quite there, in his eyes, but he felt by the end of the next week he would be in contest shape. Beat Park. Beat Park.
Week Five went by very quickly for Steve. He put the finishing touches on his physique and everyone in the gym knew it would take a Greek god to beat him now. Steve had transformed his body into a rock solid 215 pounds in less than five weeks!. Now Grimek was heard in the gym, as he pointed at Reeves, "Well, there's the next Mr. Universe."
It was now time for Steve to leave his friends in York and board a train to New York. Within a few hours he arrived at Grand Central Station in New York City. He was very familiar with New York since he spent so much time there developing his acting career a few years earlier.
He rode a bus to La Guardia Airport where he boarded a flight to London and the Mr. Universe contest.
Steve arrived in London Wednesday about midmorning, two days prior to the contest. It would give him Wednesday afternoon and Thursday to rest before the contest on Friday.
He took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. His popularity had proceeded him and it seemed everyone knew where he was staying London. Shortly after checking in the hotel, Steve hurried to his room, planning to take a nap before dinner. No sooner had he settled in and fallen asleep, the telephone rang, waking him up. It was a fan asking questions about posing routines and training tips. Steve was always happy to share his experiences, but he was trying to get some needed rest. He knew right then and there that rest was going to be impossible.
Shortly after 4 pm there began a continuous stream of people coming to his room and calling on the phone. After putting up with it with as much grace as possible, he devised a plan.
He told the group of people hanging around his room that he had to go downstairs to eat. When he reached the lobby he made a quick exit to the street and found another hotel to stay in under an assumed name just a few blocks away. He then arranged for his belongings to be transferred - after he finally got his rest!
Unknown to Steve at the time, a British body building fan and a huge fan of Reg Parks was donating the first place trophy. The trophy was no less than the original bronze Sandow trophy awarded to A.C Smythe for his third place finish in the world's first bodybuilding championship in 1901, held in Great Britain.
Smythe had agreed to part with that significant piece of history because he thought Parks was a sure win for the contest. A few of months prior, someone related seeing Steve on the beach in Santa Monica and that, in their opinion, Reeves didn't have any chance of winning. Based on this report, Smythe offered his trophy up for first place, feeling that the only threat to it remaining in British hands was safely out of the picture.
Now with the stakes even higher, it was evident the first place award would be that much harder to capture from the British. Steve knew he had to do a lot to impress the judges. He was going to have to show more energy on stage and add more snap and class to his posing. He had to do everything perfectly.
The judges for the contest were George Walsh, George Hackenschmidt, George Greenwood, Professor C Raeye of Belgium, Aeax of Paris, Andre Boulard of France and Alexander Carali of Egypt.
The competitors were sorted by height into four divisions.
There were 14 competitors in the Class 4 Division, which is for competitors shorter than 5'6". The winner of the Class 4 Division was Don Dorans from Britain, with Himitian placing second and Levy in third.
In this class, each competitor was called back for short intervals on the stage. Each of the judges informed the head judge, George Walsh, that regardless of all other class winners, first and second places in the supreme Mr. Universe competition was, as far as they were concerned, between Reeves and Park with third place taken from Class 4. At the end of this part of the final competition an hour was allowed for the judges to evaluate their decision.
What follows is a personal account from head judge, George Walsh:
"There is an hour or so before the great show commences. Time for a shower, a change of clothes and a hasty sandwich. I am grateful for the break; but deep within me, is the apprehension (I can think of no more appropriate word) that fate might call me again to cast my vote for the greatest of all physique titles."
"All my judges are here at the theater in good time and a hasty conference is convened in the dressing rooms to decide upon procedure. We have cast our votes for the winners and finalists in each of the three junior classes (junior of course, only in respect of height classes) and these are irrevocable. We have decided that the winner of Class One shall be the winner of the Mr. Universe title and that the runner-up in the same class shall enjoy second place. There remains to us, therefore, only the selection between Reeves and Park and the election, from the remaining class winners (or, of course, the third place winner in Class Four) the third position in the supreme contest itself."
"The crowd is giving us all a great reception as we are introduced from the stage with, need I say? a particularly warm welcome for the great George Hackenschmidt. The competitors from the lighter classes (none of whom, of course, are aware of our previous decisions) are appearing one by one and it seems to me that most of the audience agrees with the final six we have selected in each category. But everyone is waiting, of course, for the appearance of the two Big Guns of the competition-Parks and Reeves. And so, in great trepidation, am I!"
"Here, before me, I have five completed judging sheets. Two of my judges have found it impossible to separate the American and the Britisher and have recorded a joint vote of each. One had voted outright for Park and two have voted outright for Reeves. If the remaining judge should decide for Park and if none of the others decided to alter his decision, the unwelcome task of making a casting vote will descend upon me."
"I can hear the deafening applause that is greeting the appearance of Park and Reeves as they display their breath-taking poses before the worlds most enthusiastic audience. How I wish I could be sitting up there in the gallery or with my wife and son in the stalls! I marvel at these two supermen in the ruthless daylight of the afternoon. How much more would would we have enjoyed their matchless posing beneath kind and co-operative overhead spot-lighting! But I am waiting now, for confirmation or retraction from five of my judges and, first of all, it is the confirmation of the previous decisions that I receive."
"Now for that last judge who, I see, is approaching me from the wings. If his decision should be for the Britisher it will be my most unenviable task to render a casting vote; and although I am ready to shoulder this responsibility, it is one which I would infinitely prefer to avoid...
I am overwhelmingly relieved! Had it been my fate to have decided between these two great physical culturists I should have cast a vote for Reeves. But, I am relieved from this responsibility. My sixth judge has declared his decision so that I am not compelled to render any sort of decision at all. I am not quite sure of the words I am choosing but to judge by the tumultuous applause that greets my halting phrases at the microphone I imagine that the audience understands."
"What I am trying to say is: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Mr. Universe of 1 950- STEVE REEVES of the United States of America!' "
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